Quick childhood story: when I was seven, I decided I would be a puppeteer when I grew up. I subsisted on a steady diet of Bert, Ernie, Big Bird and Oscar–my room had the wallpaper, the bedspread, the latchhook pillows, the chair–so it’s really no wonder I didn’t see anything wrong with channeling my adoration of Sesame Street into a career. My parents, though, thought my aspiration was a great story worth retelling at every gathering, and it didn’t take long for me to figure out that the story was not being told in the same tone as, say, my older sister’s goal to be a doctor.
I hung up the puppetry goal. But I didn’t stop loving puppets. Labyrinth came along when I was 11, and I realized that puppets could be profoundly creepy as well as delightful. I played with Barbies and dolls long past the point of decency. And I never miss an opportunity to elicit puppet-inspired giggles from the RocketBaby, who appreciates a good sock as much as anyone.
So while it’s not a surprise that my recent sewing obsession has spawned the need for my own puppet family, it’s surprising that it took one Halloween costume, three stockings, a dress, and four pillowcases to get around to making my own puppet. And what better night than New Year’s Eve to spend five hours sewing a six-foot-long snake?
(I hate going out on NYE. Everyone gets wasted by 11, counts down to midnight, and then stares around drunkenly, waiting for something else interesting to happen. Transit’s on a holiday schedule and cabs are scarce. So for the last three years, I’ve sent David out the door with a promise from him to crash at our friend’s place, and I’ve spent a generally lovely evening at home with new DVDs and Ryan Seacrest.)
A month or so ago I found a fabric remnant at Britex, and it was much larger than I needed for the pillow it would be making; in fact, I had just bought ANOTHER way-too-big vintage remnant with no plans for it other than just to look at it lovingly. The growing pile of unused, unplanned-for fabric was the inspiration for the size of the puppet, while my lack of experience was the impetus behind making a snake. No arms, no legs. What could be easier?
I’ll spare you the dirty details, as well as the multiple seam-ripping incidents, the broken needle, and the swearing. Suffice to say, my outline of steps, my pattern, nothing worked out quite the way I’d hoped it would. But I had a peacefully sleeping baby, an absent husband, and the entire series of Life on Mars–as well as a bizarre appearance by Joey McIntyre and Howie Whatshishead–and two yards of retro-snake-like fabric to use.
A few minor details: the mouth’s minky fabric is leftover from Project Pillow; the felt from my Crafty Christmas. The chartreuse fabric you haven’t seen, because it’s only been used for the pillow I’m sitting on right now; not terribly exciting. My favorite bit was the stuffing: I recently repurposed an old, frayed sheet for a body pillow pillowcase, and so the snake’s stuffed with strips of the leftover sheet set. It’s soft and pliable, and perfect when it’s 12:30 AM and there’s no spare polyfill to be found.
After a 2:30 AM bedtime (I drop into a wormhole when the sewing machine turns on) I woke up at, of course, 7:30 AM, at which point I did some surgery on the big guy’s mouth; turns out a puppet’s not very functional when you can’t actually fit your hand inside the pocket. I added felt eyes and iron-on pupils (turns out we had some iron-on patches in the bottom of the sewing box; who knew?) and the ever-important eyebrows, and my puppet debut was complete.
World, meet Guv. I love the slightly crazed look he has. Like a hyperactive labrador.
In case you’re wondering about his full size, here he is with a [slightly hungover] RocketMan for scale.
I’m hoping he will have a long and happy life, as the elder statesman of my future puppet menagerie.
By the by, if you could take a moment and click the link below, I’d be most appreciative! Rocket City Digs was just accepted over at TopMommyBlogs.com, and we need a ranking boost!